tv [untitled] August 14, 2010 3:00pm-3:30pm PST
i'm a lay person, i'm not a professional architect. so i'm going to have to use layman's terms when i communicate my ideas. i think it's a little unfortunate to me that in the c-3 area, we're encouraging more and more residences. we're encouraging people to live there. over the past few years that i've been here, i know there have been times when we've actually voted to switch the use from office to residential in market street in the c-3 area. i don't think that there's really a process for people who are residents in those areas to kind of participate in these development issues and projects in the c-3 as it goes through the transition. and i know there's no community planning process that's happened obviously or that probably will happen in the c-3 area. and when we've seen projects like this that are going to have huge impacts -- it's a
code-compliant project. i get that. and i agree with commissioner sugaya that a code-compliant project is not necessarily going to get the residents there what they want. it's just not going to. so it has to be a conversation that goes outside of the code-compliant conversation. and in other neighborhoods, like market and octavia, eastern neighborhoods, places like that, we have c.a.c.'s, community action, neighbors and others that are going to be affected by these projects, whether they're residential projects or office building projects whatever, where there's a mechanism in place where people can actually have some input. that mikes me a little uncomfortable that we don't have such a process here, other than through the appeals process, because i think -- what i'm hearing from the neighbors is that they want to see a project there. i think they are fine with
seeing an office building there, but it's just how it relates to the residences and the needs of residents and the historic areas that are questions that are still, i think, outstanding. and when we were talking about market -- i keep on going back to market and octavia where we're able to have a lot of in-depth conversations about how the adjacent neighborhoods relate to hud development and certain neighborhoods relate to areas or neighborhoods that were historic in nature, you know, the whole adjacency issue. but here, outside of that, it's the whole -- i mean, how do we sort of look at the issue of bringing families and residents into the c-3 area? so i think that -- i hope that in the future there's a way of
engaging neighbors in that dialogue more than to the a peels, this position where everyone's forced to challenge projects. what i'm hearing from the neighbors is that they don't necessarily even want to challenge this, they just don't really like the way it is currently designed and would be open to something that had a design that was more sensitive to their residential nature of their situation. so those are my thoughts. i guess i'll just leave it at that for now. and at some point i would like to understand what those eight buildings are, because we do approve a lot of projects here. so sometimes i sort of feel a little stressed when i see labor come out, because i do understand their plight, although that's not our per
view here. but i know we have approved several projects over the years and it just has never begun. so i think we should review some of those projects sooner than later and look at why we've approved so many projects that haven't started. these are projects in some instances that have been approved long before the economic downturn and ask, why aren't they moving forward? >> earlier today when we were talking about treasure island, i was mentioning the interaction of residential density, transportation, commercial. and one of the speakers today was talking about the urban fabric of so massachusetts, which is a -- so marks which is a developing -- so ma, which is a developing and relatively new concept. and it is developing and it will continue to develop without question.
the entire area of soma has gone historically through many, many iterations. and i'm not going to go back historically on them. this is and in my opinion should be a mix of residential business, office, recreation and general commercial. that's exactly what is going to make the urban fabric urban in this area. the concept which we keep talking about of putting jobs and residences in conjunction with transit -- we have no one who has objected to that concept anywhere down the line. it's a large building. there's no question about it. you build buildings in different eras of history
depending on the commercial viability of the building. when you built the russ building, you built it because it was commercially viable to do a building like that at that time. you build buildings today for what is hoped to be commercial viability 10 years from now core onlying 10 years from now. you don't build it for 10 years ago. the new concept of the skin of the building, i keep hearing about this as a historic district. take a look at the block of -- we keep saying second street, because that's the address of the building. take a look at the block of howard street one block east. there is nothing particularly historic about that run-down
walk. it's in pretty bad shape. and you can continue down that line for a while. so i understand and i would have object fundamental the base of the building was higher than the historic building next to it. i think that gesture, if one wants to put it that way, is the correct way to go. i think the re veal separates the rest of the building to an extent. the tradeoff of putting the bulk into the middle tech shown -- i don't think if you reduced those floor plates the 500 square feet would make any difference to the actual building other than the viability, perhaps. but i don't think the objections that we've heard here today would be changed whatsoever.
i actually like what the department recently did, even though it caused a redesign of the building. i think the tower works out better than the pictures i've seen of the former design. i think it's a better building. i'm actually intrigued by the skin. and my first view of glass buildings of any size years ago was in texas, except that was blue glass and god awful architecture and i was turned off by them for years. glass technology has come a long way since those days, and i think this is a far better rendition of the concept. i like the openness of it and the height of the ground floor. i think it's going to be an interesting public space and as
a public space i think it will serve the neighborhood quite well in the long run. commissioner moore. commissioner moore: i have been sitting here thinking about commissioner sugaya's thoughts, and i do think that the building is too bulky. on the other hands i think we have a qualified architect who could really make this building shine, and he does already in a certain way. but when i asked him as to whether or not a smaller building would also be ok with him, i did not hear him clearly say. i'm wondering whether or not we can support the building with modifications to its silhouette, and that is the building is too large, it has too much girth around the middle, and i would like to see a smaller building. i think it's very interesting. i would agree with what president miguel just said. it's an interesting way of giving texture and difference
to a building. i don't think we have anything accept phillip johnson's building on california street, but that's a different story. i'm not sure whether or not the commission is open to asking for a slightly redesigned silhouette of the building, because in its current bulkyness i would have a hard time with this building. president miguel: commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: well, i think, you know, i'm probably in favor of the building as it's now designed, but certainly we would work with project sponsor for design. but i think that we've been -- staff has been working with them for quite a while now, and i think this is the type of size that needs to be done for this building to make sense. the only thing i would mention -- and this is a small element -- is one of your renderings, mr. fifer, appears to be sort of a smoky black glass to the building and others look blue. i always think the darker is a
richer-looking building, particularly in the context of so much brick. in fact, the c-net building is one of my favorite buildings across the street, and it has a darker green. but that's certainly a discussion for another day and something that can be done as we move forward with that. and i do agree with commissioner lee that, you know, attracting companies from outside san francisco makes a lot of sense. and many of them -- most of them have moved their governmental departments to san francisco, because government is here. they utilize legal accounting and advertising firms here, and they're starting to realize that their executive staff should be here a lot of times because -- and ultimately we can get more and more of that. google, of course, has had the site at hills plazzza that's been mentioned and we have splidse between the floors mostly because of this issue of connectivity of floors and broader floor plates, because for this type of thing we need a little more bulk to make the
building work at the middle. and there's a reason for the design, you know. form mirrors function, and i think that's what we're seeing here. so i would like to move to approve, but i don't know if the commission feels we can do them together or if we should do them individually. >> as long as you include in your motion the ceqa findings. president miguel: right, the ceqa findings. and we have the office allocation requirements, which should be no problem at all. and then the reclassification of the height, i believe, the 309 compliance on the three areas where there are exceptions, and then the remapping. >> i'll second. president miguel: commissioner olague. commissioner olague: i was kinds of hoping -- it's clear to me that we all want to approve some project on that site. i do appreciate the work that the department has done.
i think it's a huge improvement over what was at the table originally, quite frankly, even though it might have caused some inconvenience to a project sponsor. but i would like to support the comments of commissioner moore. and i don't know if that would be to ask for a continuance so that maybe we could see some additional work on the silhouette of the building or what, but -- is that a motion? >> yeah, that's a motion to continue for a couple of weeks. >> i second that. >> how many? >> i don't know how long it would take to sort of provide some kind of alternative. design. i mean, i don't know. i can't -- >> we have no time until october. >> october? president miguel: that's the soonest we have any time on the calendar that i know of. >> ok. and then we'll have this and
then some -- >> it's on a different matter. >> oh, ok. >> so you're proposing a continuance to october 7? >> first available date in october. >> yeah. >> commissioners, there's a motion on the floor for continuance, which takes precedence over any other motion on the floor. on the motion for continuance, commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: no. president miguel: motion to continue is not debatable. you have to call the question. the motion to continue is not available. >> motion to continue to october 7. commissioner antonini: no. commissioner borden: i'm going to say no for now. commissioner lee: no. commissioner moore: aye. commissioner sugaya: aye.
vice president olague: aye. president miguel: no. >> motion fails on a -4 vote. -- 3-4 vote. the motion currently on the floor is for approval of all components of the case including the adoption of the ceqa finding. commissioner sugaya: yes. if that is going to be the direction the commission is taking, i'll have to vote against the motion. if you separate it out, i can vote for some of them but not for another one. so, i'm just letting you know that. >> as maker of the motion it doesn't matter to me if we -- oh, all right. well, then i guess we should separate it. well then let's do each one individually. beginning with -- unless -- commissioner borden: i i think we want to talk first.
>> you want to continue talking before you make a decision? commissioner antonini: the motion is the same. what we're going to do is continue. i guess you don't care about the order -- ok. so we'd go as the order is on the -- on our calendar. commissioner borden: i just want to talk to staff about what -- prior to this point, what other building formats or form did you look at and was there an earlier or smaller version think? know we've changed the version. you can talk a little bit about that? >> yes. actually prior to my time at the department there was an alternative proposal that was of a more uniform massing. i understood that it was maybe a more slender floor play on average overall or rather that that sort of floor area was distributed evenly throughout the height of the tower. but my understanding is it was of the same proposed height.
maybe the project sponsor can describe it in a little bit more detail. i know there was a feeling and the director can speak to this. maybe a building forum that's more articulated with portions of the tower might be more suitable in that location. >> my understanding is that originally there was a building that was substantially taller. i forget how tall, about 500 feet, something like that, that was the initial proposal early on. >> i guess there's been enough change in the department that there aren't enough people when here who remember when we came in in 2006. >> we came to the department with two buildings in 2006. we came to the department with a 25-1 building with increased height and we were going to create a special use district and we were going to improve second street all the way from market to the freeway. there was an 18-1 building. they both had a similar irregular floor plan. it was a single shape that went
all the way up. after lengthy discussion about the possibility of improvements, it was decided because of the transbay transit center upplanning, that they didn't want to do any higher buildings on this site and we worked with dean and larry and craig for months on this simple shape that went up and this is the fall of 2006. the office economy in san francisco is hot. so not only have we paid dealer for the piece of land and bought all the t.d.r.'s, but we're actually in full-blown design development drawings. tom and i went to portland to look at this skin. we built this skin that's on the building in benson's yard in portland. and, you know, we were dish think it was a very different building, it was a very exceptional building, it would
have been very unique and finally after a year and a half dean came back and said, look, you know, because of the way the downtown plan is written, we need something that is much more compliant with the downtown plan. ok? so we stopped, we redesigned the building, we came to the department with a building where there were seven different masses. we had a whole series, rather than three masses we had seven. and that had -- so, with each one the skin ran the opposite direction. it was a much more rich, articulate form from my perspective. but again, after months of working with john, john comes to my office one day, kind of his head in his hands, he says, we can't do this. we can't support this. it has to be more compliant with the code.
we have, within reason, designed this building as compliant with the code as we can possibly do and do a 350-foot-high building. we conformed at the top, we -- the tweak of the mass at the base is simply to make the mass high end for the building next door. we've been at this for almost four years. with all due respect, and i understand the desire for it anance and the desire for, gosh, you know, if we just took six weeks, might we come back with a significantly better building? and we've been at it for four years. to make the building more compliant, aye and i think several people have -- and i think several people have said this, it's not going to improve the building. you're going to make the base of the building bigger. if you try and shove another
floor in there, which helps make it more compliant, you're going to lose the ground floor open space which i think is one of the jewels of the building. we've been at this for years. we've spent a ton of time on architecture, we spent a ton of time with the department. this is a c-3 site. it's an important corner in san francisco. the only approved office projects that are viable in the downtown are 350 bush, which has been on the books for decades, in large part because it's a midblock building north of market at the western edge of town, 535 mission, which beacon actually started construction on, and stopped. the problem with 535 mission, it's a great location, is that the floor plates are 11,000 square feet. if you build a building with
11,000-foot square plates, it's great for an 11,000-foot tenant. it might work for a 33,000-foot tenant but if it's other they're not going to consider the building. so you've got a building at 535 mission that only makes sense when the market is white hot. because that's when you can drive those big ten ants and force them to go in there, even though they don't want to, because that's the only game in town. and then you have the site at the square which is 195,000 square-foot building. it's also been on the bookser to a long time -- books for a long time. the developers were lucky enough to win some microsystems and then paid them handsomely to cancel the lease but that's not a big building. those are the only viable office sites in san francisco.
this is an important corner. it's an important opportunity to build a viable project. commissioner borden: i think you've said enough. ok, so i get that we're not -- your desire is not to work on this building any further. i get that 1,000%. i will say that what is regrettable is that the planning director should not have been working with you on a building that wasn't more compliant with the first place. i mean, i think that that was the misdirection of the planning director in the beginning. and so i just think that the frustration, while i understand it, you know, to a certain extent, is not exactly our problem. it's our problem in the sense that we want to have a good project here. ultimately i am supportive because it's the c-3. i look down howard street and there are huge buildings and it's a problem when you have a district in transition from some low rises, some high rise. i would hope that you would continue to work with staff to
figure out how we can make it feel more -- less bulky of a building, because i recognize that the challenges of this site, i recognize the floor plates, i work in a building that's from the 1970's and they're renovating the lobby for the 100th time because they're trying to remain competitive with the environment. i don't get it, it's a huge inconvenience for the tenants in the building but it seems to be the nature of the beast and the -- in the commercial environment. so i get that, i work in the tech industry, i get it. you know, we have lots of buildings in san jose and we went into a lead gold building instead, brand new, because we wanted to be in lead gold. i get the realities of the market. what i hope, though, is that we can be responsive to the overall neighborhood and figure out how to make the way the building appears, ultimately, to be less of, you know, a monstrosity. i personally think the
hawthorne lane building is quite unattractive. and, you know, there's nothing to be done about that. but i just -- that's my only concern here, ultimately is the c-3. there are other tall buildings. if you're going to concentrate office, you're going to do it downtown in the core and your transbay where makes a lot of sense. my regret is that this building can't be more respectful and imagine that, you know, as we go through the process, it will happen that way. but it's not, you know, it's not our issue that the planning director originally led you down a path for a building that wasn't really appropriate. >> i would pledge our support to working extensively with staff. we've done that at 555 mission where the building went through significant redesign after being approved by the commission at the very top. we did it in infinity where we brought in a new design architect. we will work with staff. commissioner sugaya: i think a
code-compliant building isn't going to make it anyway. my perspective, you know, there's just too much square footage and you're trying to squeeze it into this, you know, little space. and i think part of what we've not talked about very much is what mrs. hoefter pointed out and in the plan, i mean, second street happens to be called out directly. it happens to be based on shadows. but, you know, the fact that it's really only one of two streets that got called out does say something. i mean, we can't totally ignore it. and granted the shadows may not be as much as, you know, whatever -- some people think it's too much, other people seem to think that it's a very small percentage. but -- and we don't have a real measure of what that exception should be based on. so it's kind of subjective at this point. but for me the fact it did get called out does still hold some weight and that should have
been taken more into consideration, i think. without reducing the square footage, you know, spending another six weeks on the design, in my opinion isn't going to result in anything spectacular. and that's the rub here. vice president olague: it sounds like -- it is a lot better than where it started but i guess the irony to me is i'm sitting here listening to someone saying, initially we came at a project that was 500 feet which is above and beyond what the code or what is allowed in that space. and then i guess there was some conversation and the height was brought down. then there was the comment that we brought a project in that wasn't even compatible -- that wasn't even conforming to the downtown plan and we were told by the director that in the downtown you have to have a
project that conforms to the downtown plan. well, i mean, yeah, so, it's hard to, you know, for me to sympathize with what i'm hearing. >> and dean's not here to defend himself. for months dean was supportive of the original design. vice president olague: it doesn't matter. it doesn't matter. i'm just saying, at some point, i guess, the direction i'd like to see the department go in the future is one that would encourage a project sponsor to come in with a project that conforms not so much -- well, to the code, obviously, at the minimum, and then also to whatever underlying plans are in that area. so if it's a downtown plan, then one that conforms to the downtown plan or whatever. that's it. commissioner antonini: i was
called to question but i see commissioner moore has some comments. if you want to go ahead first. commissioner moore: is the bulkyness of the building is an issue, i was asking myself all along, why is the size of the ground floor as large as it needs to be? there are a number of buildings in the vicinity and you might be talking about a market trend or expectation. i found this huge lobby is totally boring. they mostly do not accept people who wear less than a suit. i have found myself in that situation, just casually being in a sweater or blue genes and actually kind of -- jeans and actually kind of being looked at with a frown on the guy's face. in the majority of these buildings you can only get in with a building identification card, obviously as a normal person you don't have, and that is correct, down the street from you, that's exactly what happens. and these large lobbies are mostly empty. mostly empty. the design intent, i like the